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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Sprint Speed Helps Tell Us Who’s Good At Baserunning And Who’s Just Fast

As you might suspect, I have been searching for stuff comparing Sprint Spead to Baserunning Runs. Here’s a pretty interesting look from a week ago.

Jim Furtado Posted: July 06, 2017 at 06:54 AM | 57 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, statcast

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   1. villageidiom Posted: July 06, 2017 at 09:28 AM (#5488404)
Good stuff.

It seems to align with what I've suspected for a while: Dustin Pedroia is not slow, but he's a lot slower than he thinks he is.

Also, I wasn't aware that anyone was slower than Victor Martinez.
   2. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: July 06, 2017 at 09:51 AM (#5488411)
I find it fascinating that the stat community is getting more and more into measurables like this. I realize they are doing a bit more with it but still, this stuff, exit velocity, pitch speed, a lot of this is just "selling jeans" territory. This is all pretty neat data to look at but at the end of the day I don't really care much how fast a player is as much as I care whether or not he is a good base runner.

This data would be a lot more interesting I think for minor league players. There you would be a bit more likely to be able to harness the Pences of the world and make their speed work for them (or alternatively punch the Pedroias in the head and tell them to knock it off).
   3. PreservedFish Posted: July 06, 2017 at 09:52 AM (#5488412)
This is all pretty neat data to look at but at the end of the day I don't really care much how fast a player is as much as I care whether or not he is a good base runner.


Really? I think it's great to know who is actually the fastest.
   4. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: July 06, 2017 at 10:14 AM (#5488428)
That doesn't do it for me. It's like radar gun readings for pitchers. "Oooh, he threw that pitch 102 MPH!" That's great but he also threw it a foot outside. I'm more interested in the guys that are good than the guys who look good.

I'm not saying it's never interesting but it's more like a tape measure homer. If Billy Hamilton triples, yeah it can be fun to see just how ####### fast he was just like it's neat to know how far Aaron Judge's latest bomb went. But the fact that Hamilton usually is just turning right and going back to the dugout quicker than most players doesn't interest me.
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: July 06, 2017 at 10:38 AM (#5488442)
Dustin Pedroia is not slow, but he's a lot slower than he thinks he is.


I would imagine you could substitute just about any trait for "slow" and "slower", and that sentence would still be accurate.

   6. PreservedFish Posted: July 06, 2017 at 10:44 AM (#5488449)
I'm more interested in the guys that are good than the guys who look good.


Hmm, I think they're both worth knowing, and when you know both, it's more interesting still.
   7. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: July 06, 2017 at 10:49 AM (#5488454)
But why do I care if a guy is fast if he's a crummy base runner (e.g. Pence)? That Pence is fast doesn't tell me much. Like I said, for minor leaguers or young players maybe it has some value but for the vast majority of MLB players who are effectively finished products there isn't much to be gained.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: July 06, 2017 at 10:59 AM (#5488460)
A fast guy that's a horrible runner and creates -3 baserunning runs will act very differently than a slow guy that's an ok baserunner that creates -3 baserunning runs.

Also, why do I care that John Jaso has dreadlocks? Why do I care that Jose Altuve is 5 feet tall? These irrelevant details are just enjoyable.

Like I said, for minor leaguers or young players maybe it has some value but for the vast majority of MLB players who are effectively finished products there isn't much to be gained.

Pssst. You're not a GM, you're a baseball fan.
   9. Bote Man Posted: July 06, 2017 at 11:10 AM (#5488470)
The Ancient Mariner, a.k.a. Jayson Werth, is a pretty good baserunner because he picks his spots wisely and has a good eye for timing his few steal attempts on his old legs. He also stays out of trouble on the base paths and has scored a few extra runs using these same attributes. I would expect to find him quite a ways down a list of fastest sprinters.

As Jose says, it's not raw speed that makes you a good baserunner.
   10. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: July 06, 2017 at 11:13 AM (#5488473)
Also, why do I care that John Jaso has dreadlocks? Why do I care that Jose Altuve is 5 feet tall? These irrelevant details are just enjoyable.


Agreed. I like watching Billy Hamilton or Byron Buxton do their thing. Like I said, the occasional moment of "holy crap he was going 28 feet per second" or whatever or comparing Buxton to Hamilton (or VMart to Butler) can be fun. But this piece is meant to be analytical and from that standpoint I don't see where how this data is more useful. Like I said earlier, from a fan standpoint it can be fun (e.g. the tape measure homer) but analytically, I'm not seeing it.
   11. TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: July 06, 2017 at 11:14 AM (#5488475)
I find it fascinating that the stat community is getting more and more into measurables like this. I realize they are doing a bit more with it but still, this stuff, exit velocity, pitch speed, a lot of this is just "selling jeans" territory. This is all pretty neat data to look at but at the end of the day I don't really care much how fast a player is as much as I care whether or not he is a good base runner.
Eh, the article isn't claiming anything other than "guys who are fast are generally the most valuable on the bases". It's not claiming anything more than "what you think is generally true is, in fact, generally true".
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 06, 2017 at 11:37 AM (#5488489)
Also, why do I care that John Jaso has dreadlocks?

Because that means he's a reefer addict who's out to get your children, that's why.
   13. McCoy Posted: July 06, 2017 at 11:41 AM (#5488493)
It's only useless info if a club doesn't know what to do with it. Sort of like pitch framing.

If a team has a fast player but are getting poor results they can look and see if they are coaching him properly to utilize his speed.
   14. PreservedFish Posted: July 06, 2017 at 12:16 PM (#5488517)
But this piece is meant to be analytical and from that standpoint I don't see where how this data is more useful.


I think you misread the piece. It's Deadspin.

The angle is, "you know how people think that Yasiel Puig runs like a doofus? Here's some stats that show it's true!" And I think it's a fun study.
   15. GGC:BTF's Biggest Underachiever Posted: July 06, 2017 at 12:21 PM (#5488522)
This info is more useful. But baseball's a pastime, so not everything needs to be about who helps your team more. A few of these guys could likely outrun Evar Swanson, but I think it's neat he circled the bases in 13.3 seconds in 1929.
   16. mathesond Posted: July 06, 2017 at 12:29 PM (#5488534)
Dustin Pedroia is not slow, but he's a lot slower than he thinks he is.


I would imagine you could substitute just about any trait for "slow" and "slower", and that sentence would still be accurate.


I tried it with smart and got a chuckle.
   17. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 06, 2017 at 12:52 PM (#5488548)
I would imagine you could substitute just about any trait for "slow" and "slower", and that sentence would still be accurate.

Didn't work for "short" and "bald," at least. It's the first clause that ruins it.
   18. Cargo Cultist Posted: July 06, 2017 at 01:02 PM (#5488560)
Looks like Buxton could benefit from some base running coaching.

Fun article, good data, even if did just pretty much confirm what my eyes see.
   19. PreservedFish Posted: July 06, 2017 at 01:08 PM (#5488570)
Who is the fastest real player ever? Setting aside Herb Washington. Was it Vince Coleman?
   20. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: July 06, 2017 at 01:36 PM (#5488600)
Who is the fastest real player ever? Setting aside Herb Washington. Was it Vince Coleman?


Hamilton would be my instinct response. He is unbelievable. Willie Wilson is the other guy I have always thought of when thinking of the outrageously fast.
   21. GGC:BTF's Biggest Underachiever Posted: July 06, 2017 at 01:41 PM (#5488606)
If you could put him into a time machine, it might be Jim Thorpe.
   22. Rally Posted: July 06, 2017 at 01:48 PM (#5488618)
I think some of the legendary base stealers might be more quick than fast - smaller guys who get to their top speed faster. Bo Jackson might have a faster top speed once he gets moving. But that's just a guess.

Willie Wilson is a good candidate. Eric Davis should be considered.
   23. GeoffB Posted: July 06, 2017 at 02:02 PM (#5488636)
I'd be really interested to see how sprint speed correlates with fielding range, broken out by position. Not that I expect that it would unearth anything unexpected, but it would still be cool to see. More scatter diagrams, please.
   24. DL from MN Posted: July 06, 2017 at 02:05 PM (#5488640)
Looks like Buxton could benefit from some base running coaching.


He plays for Molitor, one of the best base runners ever.
   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 06, 2017 at 02:11 PM (#5488645)
Not that I expect that it would unearth anything unexpected

Definitionally, in fact.
   26. Ziggy: The Platonic Form of Russell Branyan Posted: July 06, 2017 at 02:25 PM (#5488664)
I haven't been keeping up on this stuff. Do we have figures correlating exit velocity (/speed/etc.) with actual things that produce baseball value? If we've got those this info could be useful for minor leaguers or amateurs. If not, I don't see how having this data is going to help. But if we've got it we could use it to build models to predict performance from unfinished players or players in leagues with untrustworthy statistics.
   27. GGC:BTF's Biggest Underachiever Posted: July 06, 2017 at 02:32 PM (#5488674)
There was some hitting stat from Statcast that overrated plodding baserunners. I can't find the article, but it combined barrels and other highly productive swings. Miggy Cabrera came out on or close to the top of the leaderboard. If you refined that with sprint speed, maybe it could be a better predictor.
   28. GGC:BTF's Biggest Underachiever Posted: July 06, 2017 at 02:35 PM (#5488677)
   29. Greg Pope Posted: July 06, 2017 at 02:42 PM (#5488688)
I haven't been keeping up on this stuff. Do we have figures correlating exit velocity (/speed/etc.) with actual things that produce baseball value?

Didn't Walt or someone here post leaderboards for exit velocity from last year and show that it had very little correlation with AVG and/or SLG?
   30. PreservedFish Posted: July 06, 2017 at 02:44 PM (#5488694)
Do we have figures correlating exit velocity (/speed/etc.) with actual things that produce baseball value?

...

If not, I don't see how having this data is going to help.


I find this confounding for a couple reasons.

1. HOW COULD IT NOT CORRELATE? Hitting the baseball hard is a good thing, it's been good since you were playing t-ball, and it's still good, so how on earth could exit velocity not correlate well with hitting success? I don't know how you could even entertain the idea that it wouldn't. But to answer your question, I'll give you two lists, you try and pick which one contains the top 5 highest average exit velocities this year, and which the lowest 5:

Group #1: Clayton Kershaw, Emilio Bonifacio, Max Scherzer, Billy Hamilton, Ichiro
Group #2: Aaron Judge, Miguel Sano, Alex Avila, Joey Gallo, Khris Davis

2. What does it mean, "going to help?" You are not a general manager, you are a baseball fan. Don't you find it interesting when you hear that Aaron Judge just hit the hardest line drive of the last 3 years? Isn't that fun to learn? Who cares if a front office can leverage the information? It's fascinating information in and of itself.
   31. PreservedFish Posted: July 06, 2017 at 02:53 PM (#5488703)
Didn't Walt or someone here post leaderboards for exit velocity from last year and show that it had very little correlation with AVG and/or SLG?

There is clearly a correlation, as even the most cursory look at the leaderboards will confirm.

Here you go.
   32. Ziggy: The Platonic Form of Russell Branyan Posted: July 06, 2017 at 03:42 PM (#5488764)
Rob Deer wasn't much of a MLB player, but it's certainly possible that he hit the ball hard. In fact, I'd be surprised if he didn't.

In any case, the next step is to build models to predict future performance from these data. I wonder how they'll compare to results-oriented models like ZiPS? Or if there's a way to blend the two.

As for your second point: we can each find different ways to enjoy baseball. I like to see it as a whole bunch of fascinating puzzles, some of which have to do with predicting future performance. I enjoy it (in part) by figuring out (or, more often, learning from others) how it works. If you enjoy it by learning about Aaron Judge's exit velocity, and things like that, great. There's really no problem here.
   33. PreservedFish Posted: July 06, 2017 at 03:45 PM (#5488770)
Rob Deer wasn't much of a MLB player, but it's certainly possible that he hit the ball hard. In fact, I'd be surprised if he didn't.


This is pretty trite. We all know how correlations work.

As for your second point: we can each find different ways to enjoy baseball.


Fair enough.
   34. Jose Bautista Bobblehead Day Posted: July 06, 2017 at 03:47 PM (#5488772)
Who is the fastest real player ever? Setting aside Herb Washington. Was it Vince Coleman?
Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders.
   35. SandyRiver Posted: July 06, 2017 at 04:15 PM (#5488791)
Who is the fastest real player ever? Setting aside Herb Washington. Was it Vince Coleman?


Mantle, before the '51 WS? He was plenty fast afterward, but may have been running on a damaged ACL.
   36. Rally Posted: July 06, 2017 at 04:26 PM (#5488801)
I would be very curious to see how fast Mike Trout was in 2012. Right now he's fast, but ordinary fast, about middle of the pack among center fielders.

In 2012 he caught everything that was catchable, surprised infielders by beating out hits that should have been routine outs, stole 49 bases in 54 attempts, and hit into only 7 DP.

The GIDP total is good but nothing legendary. On August 12 though he only had one, in 92 games and 423 PA. Then he hit into 5 before the month was out.
   37. PreservedFish Posted: July 06, 2017 at 04:32 PM (#5488806)
I'm sure that Trout was among the fastest players in the majors. But Deion Sanders fast? Deion Sanders was among the fastest players in the history of a sport where you don't even get drafted if you're not Terrance Gore fast.
   38. Mefisto Posted: July 06, 2017 at 04:35 PM (#5488809)
Probably Deion Sanders was the fastest player ever. Sam Jethroe might be there too, at least before he broke his leg.

Mantle's speed was exaggerated by Red Patterson, but he was probably decently fast before his leg problems. I doubt he was faster than a number of others in his day.
   39. Rally Posted: July 06, 2017 at 06:34 PM (#5488869)
By 40 yard dash times Bo and Deion are on the short list for fastest MLB and NFL players. A google search shows that Bo's fastest was slightly faster than Deion's, but it's not a verifiable timing.
   40. Mefisto Posted: July 06, 2017 at 10:28 PM (#5488961)
Wikipedia claims that Willie Davis ran a 9.5 100 yard dash once. Bobby Bonds ran a 9.6 in high school.

And, of course, Ichiro could run the fastest if he wanted to.
   41. kthejoker Posted: July 06, 2017 at 11:34 PM (#5488994)
Things I learned from this article:

Sprint speed indicates that at their fastest Buxton could run four bases in the time it’d take McCann to run three.
   42. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: July 07, 2017 at 12:19 AM (#5489008)
shows that Bo's fastest was slightly faster than Deion's


That's still mind numbing to think about. Jackson was just seemingly huge and Sanders, though tall, was considered lean compared to Jackson. Didn't Sanders run like a 4.2 40 or something. Wiki says Jackson ran a 4.1...holy cow. To think Jackson was quicker is just nuts.

I know the younger guys don't get it, but you just had to see Jackson do things to appreciate how amazing he was. A guy that large just should never be able to move that fast.
   43. Cargo Cultist Posted: July 07, 2017 at 01:48 AM (#5489035)
Bo and Deion were both scary fast - faster than Hamilton or Buxton - but having watched both of them play football, play baseball and run sprints, the edge easily goes to Bo. I can't think of a better way to put it than this: he was unholy fast, and as noted above, impossibly fast for his size. No one and nothing that big should be able to move that fast or accelerate that quickly. Deion, on the other hand, was an extremely fast normal human being, and he would be my all-time first choice if I had never seen Bo Jackson run.

Bo ran a NFL-Scout-Combine-attested 40 in 4.12 seconds. The scouts were challenged on that speed so many times by the media that the chief scout wrote a letter attesting that yes, Bo really did run a 4.12 40. At the time he weighed 235 pounds. Let that sink in.

Here, take a minute and watch Bo Jackson's famous 91-yard touchdown run against Seattle.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0BQ72rE6iyw

Any other running back would've been caught; Bo Jackson simply flies past three fast Seahawk DB's like they are on crutches.

I don't have a video link to it but I was at a Raiders game that same year when he broke through and then outran the entire Kansas City defense. They were all eleven of them chasing him and it reminded me of a bunch of golden retrievers trying to catch a greyhound.
   44. Cargo Cultist Posted: July 07, 2017 at 02:40 AM (#5489043)
Some 40 times:

Bo, 4.12

John Ross, 4.22

Chris Johnson, 4.24

Randy Moss, 4.25

Deion, 4.27

Terence Gore, 4.29

Brian Buxton, 4.37

Billy Hamilton, 4.50

Michael Irvin, 4.52

Look at the gap between Bo and John Ross.

Track star and 2016 USA Olympic runner Christian Coleman has also run a 4.12 40, the same as Bo.

Coleman is just a track star. His only skill is to run fast. He weighs 157 pounds. Bo weighed 235, 78 pounds more. And Bo could also play two sports at a professional level.

Getting the picture of just how unholy Bo was?



   45. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: July 07, 2017 at 03:42 AM (#5489045)
I'm young so Bo was before my time, so Randy Moss has always been my personal avatar of sheer speed. Mostly for how unbelievably casual he looked while just blowing past people; he was so long and lean that he appeared to be jogging.
   46. Jim Furtado Posted: July 07, 2017 at 06:56 AM (#5489050)
The Statcast stuff fascinates me. As a fan, being able to see that Paul Goldschmidt isn't particularly fast but gets a bunch of value as a baserunner is interesting. As a GM, I can see how valuable this information can be, both as an evaluation tool and a development tool. I can just see a coach telling a burner, "Yeah, you are fast but if you learn to cut the bases like <name slow but great baserunning player>, you'd get around the bases even faster."

   47. PreservedFish Posted: July 07, 2017 at 07:52 AM (#5489053)
I remember sometimes hearing that Darrell Green was the fastest man in NFL. He was a contemporary of Bo & Deion.

This page has 100m dash times of NFL players. Bo's time of 10.44 is not among the fastest. Bob Hayes was an actual Olympian sprinter, but many other players have him beat, including fellow genetic freak Herschel Walker, Green, Deion, Jamaal Charles, Warrick Dunn... of course one cannot say how well he would have done had he concentrated on track & field to a greater extent.

It's also possible that Bo was so fast-twitch that the he would lose steam over the course of 100 meters. When trying to verify his 100m time I found an article about his high school decathlon career - he was so dominant at the state level that he was able to sit out the mile run and still win the championship during his junior and senior years.
   48. Rally Posted: July 07, 2017 at 08:55 AM (#5489074)
Obviously I'm not anywhere near these guys but I was pretty fast in high school. Never ran track, just used my speed 90 feet at a time or on the basketball court. I never did any kind of distance running. Once I had to run 2 miles for gym class, hated it, and my time was nothing special. Never even tried a 40 yard timing, let alone a 100 yard or meter. I was a specialist in the 30 yard dash.

Only much later in life did I find out that sprinters often are terrible at longer events. A joke about Usain Bolt goes like:

How long does it take Usain Bolt to run a mile?

Don't know. Usain Bolt has never run a mile.
   49. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: July 07, 2017 at 09:01 AM (#5489076)
A joke about Usain Bolt goes like:


I notice you didn't say "a good joke..." :-)

I was never fast enough for it to matter. I was a catcher growing up and wouldn't even qualify as "fast for a catcher." I was quick, anything remotely close to me and I'd get it, but more than a step or two and it was all over. I assume it would be the same for runners. The physical ability to run 26 miles and the physical ability to run 100 meters at a high level are presumably very different things. Just looking at the Olympic athletes, the marathoners are wispy while the track stars tend to be pretty solid.

And it can't be said enough, the physical specimen that was Bo Jackson is something I've never seen before or since. It feels like old man shouts at cloud type stuff but he was just a ridiculous, ridiculous athlete. Trout is the first player I've seen whose athleticism makes me think of Bo but even he comes up short as an athlete (though of course he's a much better baseball player).
   50. Rally Posted: July 07, 2017 at 09:14 AM (#5489079)
It's a good thing we have video evidence of Bo Jackson. Otherwise nobody would believe us.
   51. GGC:BTF's Biggest Underachiever Posted: July 07, 2017 at 11:00 AM (#5489168)
Should you era adjust raw times? Someone like Jim Thorpe was running on a cinder track and he wasn't wearing Nikes.
   52. Cargo Cultist Posted: July 07, 2017 at 11:17 AM (#5489180)
It's a good thing we have video evidence of Bo Jackson. Otherwise nobody would believe us.


You really can't blame them, I had trouble believing he was real when I was in the same stadium with him. No human being that big and strong should ever be able to be that fast. It's unnatural.
   53. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: July 07, 2017 at 11:25 AM (#5489187)
So Brian McCann is the slowest guy in MLB. I wonder how McCann would compare to a typical adult American of MLB age (say 20-40 years old)
   54. Rally Posted: July 07, 2017 at 11:32 AM (#5489189)
Should you era adjust raw times? Someone like Jim Thorpe was running on a cinder track and he wasn't wearing Nikes.


He'd definitely run faster if given the modern advantages. I don't think it's possible to do a fair comparison though. You need to make assumptions to do an adjustment, and different but reasonable assumptions could put him a bit ahead of today's fastest or a bit behind, and we still have no idea which assumptions are correct.
   55. Manny Coon Posted: July 07, 2017 at 11:58 AM (#5489215)
Willie Gault was another super fast NFL guy in the 80's, he would have run 110 hurdles in Moscow if not for the boycott, in 1983 he was part of a world record 4x100 relay team with Carl Lewis (broke a year later by a team with NFL player Ron Brown). In 1988 he was named to the Olympic bobsled team, but ended up not competing due to some weird in team fighting, but that likely led the way to Hershel Walker being on the 1992 boblsed team. I wonder how good Bo Jackson would have been a bobsled pushing.
   56. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: July 07, 2017 at 12:23 PM (#5489233)
The 30 for 30 special about Bo has Deion telling a story about Bo's speed. IIRC, Deion says that in his freshman year at FSU, Bo was already a star/legend. Bo broke through the secondary and Deion had to run him down. He did, barely, thanks to a good angle and Bo lugging the football and just having dodged 10 other guys. The thing is, catching up to him is hard enough, but bringing him down is a whole nother thing. There's a brief bit of video of this encounter in the special, and probably on YT. Good stuff.
   57. Cargo Cultist Posted: July 07, 2017 at 09:00 PM (#5489620)
He was hard to bring down. I saw him drag linebackers behind him into the end zone.

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